Earlier this week, Arus Pelangi took part in a breakfast meeting which was initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA); for a final hearing process between government and civil society prior to the signing of the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights during ASEAN Ministerial Conference at Phnom Penh, Cambodia, this week.
This meeting was chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa), and attended by his team including the Director General of ASEAN Partnership (I Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja), Director of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (Muhammad Anshor), the Minister’s spokesperson, and other staff. The Indonesian Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission of Human Rights (Rafendi Djamin) updated all participants on the consultation process that the document has undergone until today. From civil society, apart from Arus Pelangi, Gaya Nusantara, Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara, HRWG, KontraS, LBH-Jakarta, IKOHI, Kalyana Mitra, and Aliansi Jurnalis Independen were also present.
In general, civil society expressed positive appreciation towards the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Indonesian Government for series of public consultations and engagement process that have taken place to develop the declaration. On the other hand, civil society also expressed concerns on the imperfection of the declaration, including the non-inclusion of LGBT rights; the unclear boundaries between rights and responsibility related to article 6, 7, and 8, which may be used by some parties as a tool to defend and justify their repressive polices; the gap of understanding the concept of indigenous (peoples); and the difficulties to access the draft declaration document, thus causing confusion on which state the document is at – at different times.
Some proposed for the postponement of the signing process to allow more consultation process to take place, particularly to minimize gaps amongst concepts, stakeholders, and decision makers.
In his reply, the minister highlighted some interesting points, such as the existence of article 40 as a strong lock-down to the unclear boundaries between rights and responsibilities as it is very difficult to find the perfect practical strategy for this issue as the concept is also still an ongoing debate in other regions (i.e. Europe). Other than that, MOFA also explained that the consultation and engagement process to develop this declaration has taken place for around a decade, initiated by the Minister himself when he was still in charge of the ASEAN division at MOFA; compared to many other ASEAN countries, the Indonesian government is very open to the public (i.e. Indonesia is the only country where the AICHR representative comes from a civil society group). And finally, from a political momentum perspective, 2012 (or now!) is the big opportunity for signing – whilst Indonesia is still the lead country. Delay of signing will run the risk of a long delay or a downgrade of the quality of the document. The ASEAN governments need this declaration now to strengthen human rights governance within the region and it is important to keep in mind that other countries are not as advanced. The government also acknowledged that not all issues can be addressed in this declaration making this declaration an imperfect document; however the declaration also has many advanced points such as a clause on protection of women.
The meeting indeed showed that a gap between civil society and government still exists (both technical and conceptual gaps); however, the openness of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Indonesian civil society that is shown through the strategy of public consultations and series of events that has taken place during the development of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration is a strong indication on how Indonesia has advanced in its democratic governance system.
From LGBT movement perspective; the exclusion of LGBT on the declaration indicates the failure of the declaration to maintain the indivisible principle of human rights where all rights should be equal; no rights is less important then another including the LGBT rights.
But yet, as part of the public – that knows no clear boundaries between innocence and brightness – we are also aware that the LGBT issue is not a hot and sexy femme that could easily attract most butchs’ attention.
We are also understand that advocacy, capacity building, and awareness raising remain to be important strategies to a social transformation with the civil society, government and public as the drivers of change; and at this stage – looking at the 240 million Indonesians and 500 million people living in the South East Asia region – how many of them are really ready for this transformation?
Having a government who opens its door to LGBT issues should made us all realize on how advanced we have progressed in influencing the human rights governance in the ASEAN region. At least now they know we exist, and now they do recognize our existence.
We also believe that, sooner or later, we will be able to spread the love to our neighbors and we will finally reach a more ideal state of governance where decision is based on consensus and mutual respect.
In the end of the day, signing or no signing of the ASEAN Human Rights declaration will not make this document alive. There is no perfect solution for all problems in the world; sense of belonging, ownership, integrity, trust, commitment and respect are just a few values that are needed to strengthen the energy of unity and harmony among the diverse human beings in the region, including us, the LGBT groups.
Yuli & Anna
Arus Pelangi (November 2012)